Is city living better than living in the suburbs or rural and small town living? According to two institutions, one in New York and one in Boston, city living beats small town living. I recognize there are advantages to city living, in fact my site CityRetirement.com focuses on exactly that. Let’s take a look at each urban expert’s points and take them under consideration.
This weekend I watched on Cspan’s BookTV a hour long lecture given at the Manhattan Institute in New York by the author of a new book titled “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier”.
The author Edward Glaeser argues that the city is humanity’s greatest invention and our salvation for the future. Glaeser says that the 2/3 of Americans who live in cities (which take up only 3% of the country’s land mass) are healthier, more prosperous, and more environmentally conscious than other Americans. Edward Glaeser is a professor of economics at Harvard University and director of Harvard’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. Mr. Glaeser is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal. You may watch the video here.
Mr Glaeser says that it is a paradox that in this Internet age that you can operate from anywhere in the world, but that cities are more successful than ever. He says cities have remarkable productivity levels and that if
productivity levels rose in the rest of the country to the level of New York’s, then the country’s GDP would rise by 43%. The relationship between urbanization and economic prosperity is strong. Cities are the paths out of poverty to economic prosperity for so much of the world. He continues that cities also are fun, they are green, they are healthy, they are exciting places to be where the magic of human interaction makes a place so much more exciting. They are great places to learn from the people around us.
Next comes Joseph F. Coughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab. His research focuses on how the convergence of demographic change (specifically aging) and technology will drive innovation in business and government.
I watched Mr. Coughlin video of the lecture: The Future is Gray, Small & Female: Disruptive Demographics and Transportation Tomorrow and was delighted to find the Age Lab and all it’s resources. The lecture covers a lot of ground and if you have interest in the subject of aging you might find it fascinating as I did. But more to the point of this post, regarding aging and transportation, 70% of Americans over age 50 live in suburban and rural areas where transit is unavailable or a poor alternative. Mr. Coughlin points out that should we be so lucky we will at some point in time give up driving and when that occurs you better be near the people and services and you will need.
He points out that as we age there is diminished physical capacity and the desire to navigate tough roads and highways and even transit systems. This will limit where we go and how often. By the way he figures the big box stores will soon be on the way out since they were made for a large family and they hard to navigate for shopping for only one or two peoples. Anyway since we will be limited on our trips and it will be hard to get out, services will need to be come to us in our homes. Also people need to work longer and will need to get to their jobs.
Bottom line is that urban areas will be better suited to have home services available nearby to come to your home to deliver the services you need if you are restricted in your mobility. They also have better access to transportation. Mr. Coughlin warns about going out to live in retirement communities in the outer areas, which are attractive but transportation opportunities are few. Instead look for a livable boomer ready community in an urban area. There are not many around but they will be coming. So maybe think about cities as a place for retirement living too.
So there you have some compelling reasons to age in place in an urban area. More advantages of city living are listed here. To balance things out a bit, check out advantages of living in a small town.